instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Signing over sin

A few weeks back, I heard a short excerpt from Bert Ghezzi's The Sign of the Cross: Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer. I've swiped something from that excerpt for personal use, and the early results seem promising.

The fundamental principle is that, as an invocation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary, the Sign of the Cross is not merely the way we begin and end prayer, but a powerful prayer in itself.

It is, of course, used as a sort of invocational or ejaculatory prayer in various circumstances -- before free throw attempts, for example, and at the mention of the ruined castle that lies half a day's journey beyond the village.

Bert Ghezzi's proposal, which I am adopting as my own, is to use the Sign of the Cross as a prayer for forgiveness and grace immediately following recognition of a fault or sin in something you've just done.

More precisely: Trace the Sign of the Cross with your thumb on your forehead, lips, or heart -- as is done prior to the Gospel at Mass -- depending on the nature of your fault or sin.
  • Forehead: a fault or sin in thought, or against faith
  • Lips: a fault or sin in words, or against hope
  • Heart: a fault or sin in deeds, or against charity
My thinking with the "depending on the nature" business is that it will make me notice, not just the frequency of my sins, but what kinds of sins I tend to commit. If I find I'm always crossing my lips, then I should work on controlling the words that cross my lips. If I find I'm always crossing my heart, then I should work on opening my heart to those around me.

Whether it's actually a useful distinction to try to make, I'm not sure. It may be I only notice certain kinds of sins, or that I find everything basically boils down to a lack of charity. Ask me in a year.

In a year, you can also ask me if I have any personal stories to tell of experiencing the special power of the Sign of the Cross used in this way. To this point I don't, or at least nothing over and above what you'd expect from any sort of conscious attempt to ask promptly for mercy.

At the very least, though, I may be able to make my future purgation (to speak in hope, not presumption) minimally easier, since the Sign of the Cross is an indulgenced prayer.